What Is Psychotherapy?

This informative article explains the meaning of psychotherapy, how it works, and who can benefit from it.

What Is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a practice that treats a broad range of emotional and mental difficulties by speaking with a mental health professional.

Psychotherapy can be useful for many people in many different situations, including those who have experienced a loss, struggle with daily life, and have mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. Through psychotherapy, individuals can learn to navigate difficulties in life better and improve their well-being.

Psychotherapy vs. Therapy vs. Counseling

Some may wonder if there is a difference between psychotherapy, therapy, and counseling. Essentially, all terms have the same definition, with sessions mainly involving talking, identifying and fixing problems, and utilizing various methods and techniques to treat the issue or condition.

Although counseling can refer to therapy or psychotherapy, some people distinguish that counseling targets more specific and brief issues, while therapy is a broader, more in-depth form of treatment. Nonetheless, psychotherapy, therapy, and counseling are relatively the same concepts, with a few differences here and there.

Psychotherapy Types

There are several psychotherapy types and approaches, including:

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

IPT focuses on the client’s relationships with the goal of improving distress and issues that may have stemmed from these connections. It is often utilized for people with mood disorders.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Often used to treat anxiety and depression, CBT is a form of individual psychotherapy that focuses on challenging negative thought patterns and improving mood and outlook.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a type of psychological therapy often used for personality disorders. It combines approaches like mindfulness, acceptance, and distress tolerance.

Psychodynamic Therapy

This type of individual psychotherapy allows clients to gain insight into their thought processes and better understand how they think and feel. As a result, psychodynamic therapy’s methods empower people to make better and clearer decisions in their lives.

Family Therapy

Family therapy is typically short-term and involves multiple members of a family. It can be useful for improving communication, addressing conflicts, and deepening connections.

Group Therapy

Group therapy involves one or more therapists treating a group of individuals together.

Online Therapy

Online therapy can be very similar to traditional in-person therapy, but it takes place online, typically via video chat.

What Psychotherapy Can Help With

Psychotherapy treatment is useful for many different types of mental health concerns, including:
  • Addiction
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Experiences Psychotherapy Can Improve

People can benefit from psychotherapy treatment even if they haven’t been diagnosed with any specific condition. Many find that psychological therapy is useful in improving problems like stress, sleep issues, and motivation. Unlike certain medications, there are typically no adverse reactions in therapy, making it a relatively risk-free investment into one’s well-being. In fact, numerous brain imaging studies have found psychotherapy can change the brain similar to the effects of therapeutic medications.1

How to Know if You Need Psychotherapy

It’s not always easy to know when you need psychological help or recognize the signs. If you’re unsure about whether to attend therapy or not, consider the following questions:

  • Are you experiencing an issue causing significant distress or disruption in your life?
  • Are you relying on unhealthy or dangerous coping mechanisms?
  • Are your friends and family concerned for your well-being?
  • Have you tried other things to feel better, but nothing has helped?

If you answered yes to one or more of the questions above, you might benefit from psychotherapy interventions.

Risks and Cautions of Psychotherapy Medicine

Overall, psychological therapy treatment is a safe and effective method to address mental health concerns. Still, there may be some drawbacks or risks associated with psychotherapy. Some potential cautions to consider with therapy include:

  • The amount of time and money therapy requires
  • The possibility of receiving unhelpful treatment
  • Some psychotherapy types and approaches are more beneficial for some than others
  • Unexpected changes or effects from therapy—even positive changes can be difficult to adjust to

How to Get the Most Out of Psychotherapy

In order to get the most out of therapy, it’s important to take the therapeutic process seriously. Remember, the purpose of psychotherapy is to heal and live a more fulfilling life. Therefore, not putting effort into sessions will only prolong the issues that the therapist is trying to help with.

With that in mind, some things to remember when attending psychological therapy will be detailed below.

Be Honest With Your Therapist

It is never easy opening up to someone, so feeling slightly hesitant during the first few sessions is common. Remember that therapy is a judgment-free environment, and the therapist is only there to help. Being honest and truthful gives your therapist more information and opportunities to provide proper and personalized treatment.

Feel Your Feelings

It may be difficult to make progress in therapy if you avoid feeling your feelings in your daily life. Many of us numb or ignore our feelings as coping mechanisms, but this only sets us back further. You will make more progress in therapy if you try to feel your emotions, even the difficult ones that are hard to sit with.

Be Open to the Process

You may have some slow therapist sessions where you feel like you don’t know what to say, and it may make you question what you’re getting out of therapy or if it’s right for you. However, slow sessions can be part of the process, so stick it out and work with your therapist to get past any lulls. Remember that not every session will be or feel like a success.

Attend Your Sessions

You may feel tempted to skip sessions when life feels easier or you don’t have much to talk about for that week; nevertheless, it’s important to keep going, even when life is good. Many studies show that therapy is most effective when attended consistently. 2

Do the Work

Therapy is not always easy. For example, your therapist may use psychotherapy techniques that require you to think or write about difficult or uncomfortable experiences. You may also have to challenge yourself to think and behave in challenging or unfamiliar ways. However, while difficult at the moment, these challenges will likely lead to improvements in your life and overall well-being.

Benefits of Psychotherapy Interventions

Although therapy can be hard work at times, there are many advantages. Of course, changes don’t happen overnight, but by attending sessions regularly and putting time and energy into each session, improvements may be noticeable in just a few sessions.

Some of the benefits and goals of psychotherapy include:

  • Improved communication skills
  • Healthier thinking patterns and a greater awareness of negative thoughts
  • More insight into one’s life and goals
  • Ability to make healthier choices
  • Better coping strategies to manage difficult emotions and situations
  • Stronger family bonds

According to hundreds of studies, 75% of people who receive psychotherapy experience beneficial outcomes. In addition, those who complete their treatment have a better quality of or outlook in life than 80% of people who received no treatment.3

Get Started With Psychotherapy at Essence Healthcare

At Essence, we offer a variety of psychotherapy techniques and treatment options for all mental health concerns, allowing our team to formulate treatment plans that work for your unique needs. We are committed to helping you achieve a better quality of life. Contact us today to learn more about our programs.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.